Monday, October 27, 2008

Coming Soon to a Howard Theatre Near You: Development

By this time next year, the old Howard Theatre should be well on its way to recapturing some its lost magic. Ellis Development Group and Martinez & Johnson Architecture have been charged with restoring the historic theater to its original purpose - albeit with a few modern twists. The building will retain its original size and basic interior configuration as the 98-year-old music hall is restored to one of Washington DC's premier live entertainment venues. This is Ellis' second planned project for 7th & T Streets NW - they have also been selected for the colossal Broadcast Center One project on the same block.

The update will consist of what the developer describes as "three overlapping components." The first of these will include the reintegration of a "medium-sized" stage into main audience chamber, which aims to accommodate 500-600 concertgoers. The backstage area, or "Stage House" as they say in the biz, is to be outfitted with all of the state-of-the-art, modern amenities found in any venue worth its weight in Victrolas: theatrical rigging, motorized winches, soundproofing and the rest. A new level will be added 25 feet above the stage, in order to accommodate administrative offices.

Another phase of the historic revamp will include the addition of a new upscale restaurant, meant to accommodate up to 300 customers at any one time. Cuisine at the waiter-serviced eatery and bar is being described as “upscale,” with more details to be hammered out as the project approaches its targeted 2010 completion – and 100th birthday. A 1,200 square foot kitchen will round out the area.

However, the component of the most immediate significance to the local Shaw community is the “education area” – a pair of class-cum-rehearsal rooms directly underneath the stage. In keeping with the developer’s pledge to “enrich, educate and enlighten,” the space will be available to the local artistic causes.

And what would a DC landmark be without tchotchkes for sale? Rounding out the theatre’s redevelopment is a 600-s.f. museum and gift shop that will presumably detail the musical hall’s rich history as a host for acts like Duke Ellington, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye and Redd Foxx; faces you will now find on a coffee cup or mousepad, we suppose.

"We have 60% of the cost solved and we need to raise the rest to try and retire the debt, and/or raise as much we can to begin construction," said Chip Ellis of Ellis Development. The not-for-profit associated with the developer, Howard Theatre Restoration, Inc., will continue to accept donations until the project is complete.

According to Ellis, the $25 million worth of renovation procedures are expected to commence in Auguest 2009. Whiting-Turner will serve as the general contractor on the project.


washcycle on Oct 27, 2008, 2:10:00 PM said...

Your map is a little off, the Howard is actually at the SW corner of T and Wiltberger Street NW.

Anonymous said...

I am sure all the crackheads outside will make it a great place to travel too. Waste of money, "they" will ruin it and make it a shooting gallery soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:17 is too pessimistic. I live in this neighborhood and I agree it is not the best place to hang out yet, but nothing deters crime than people on the street and active street life. If Radio One can get their act together an redevelop this derelict block then there is hope for Shaw yet!

Radio One is the lynchpin, catalyst and keystone. Nothing will be successful in this neighborhood until some investment is made there. Then the Wonderbread factory will take off, Howard Town Center will happen and a lot of other smaller developments will get off the ground.

Anonymous said...

For this to have any chance, Broadcast Center One needs to be completed and inhabited, and the surrounding buildings need to be rehabbed to bring more people back to the block. We haven't seen any movement on that yet, after zoning approval and a significant TIF approval months ago. Broadcast Center One was supposed to break ground in Feb. 2008, but nothing yet.

It's really nice to think about the Howard coming back, but any dates for ground-breaking or completion are just blind speculation at this point. Especially in this economy, and with the current difficulty in getting construction loans.

Mr. Q on Oct 28, 2008, 9:31:00 AM said...

So what is the deal with Radio One? Does ANYONE know?

Anonymous said...

Great forum, any new readers like to respond to the thread?

Anonymous said...

I'm not really understanding how this is going to be successful considering it's just a few blocks down from another virtually identical theater (the Lincoln) that hosts about a dozen events a year and requires regular cash handouts from the city to stay afloat. Is there some secret business model I don't understand involved? Because it sounds like a recipe for failure to me.

And I want it to be successful - I live in Ledroit Park and can't wait for that area to be developed. But I don't see this working.

Anonymous said...

With Radio One having financial problems and a lot of money still needed for the theater is any of this going to happen?

aaron on Oct 30, 2008, 3:00:00 PM said...

I'll believe it when I see it. There hasn't been any work done at Parcel 42 or Radio Once since they were both given approvals.

At least they are talking about breaking ground on the Wonderbread Factory site in five months.

Anonymous said...

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